The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

World leaders, partying in Pittsburgh

Wednesday 30 September 2009 at 10:47 pm

Briefly — for I am spending more time in airports this week than I should — I wanted to comment on the curious instance last week of the Group of 20 industrialised nations meeting in Pittsburgh.

Not that long ago, the G20 seemed like an irrelevant organisation, and Pittsburgh an equally unimportant city (though I know people who’d say it still is!). But even if last Friday’s announcement was made up of “unenforceable vague standards”, in the words of one US Senator, it’s remarkable because at least there are standards being drawn up. Merely five or ten years ago, it’d have been extraordinary to see twenty nations agree to even try to harmonise policy in this way. But thanks to its right-place-right-time luck in the last 12 months, the G20 has managed to earn some cred, and all eyes seem to be on it.

And thus, in comparison to things like the freak-show last week at the UN General Assembly, the G20’s future suddenly looks filled with promise.

Obama’s stated aim of showing how the country’s “rust belt” is being transformed worked to the extent that plenty of articles were published, and there seems to be a media consensus that something significant happened in Pittsburgh (a changing of the guard, as it were, between the G7/8 and the G20). These stories are all obviously a bit contrived — but I can’t help but feel that maybe they’re onto something.


Two steps back … and half a step forward?

Saturday 9 June 2007 at 2:12 pm

Angela Merkel and George Bush at the G8 meeting in Germany; Creative Commons licence does not apply to this image

  • Yesterday’s announcement from the G8 meeting sounds awesome: US$60 billion! For the Global Fund! Tackling the worst diseases facing Africa! Yet although this is good news, it actually represents only a little bit of new funding, and it’s being directed to programmes that have an annoying tendency to draw the focus away from other public health concerns (i.e. yay your town is HIV-free! but no we won’t fix your crumbling hospital).
  • Among the other announcements from the G8 summit (including a very American-sounding statement about intellectual property) is an even greater non-event: on climate change, they’ve promised to enter discussions about what to do when the Kyoto Protocol expires, seeking “substantial global emission reductions” (which is as strong as the document gets). By normal standards of diplomacy I’d call this a success — but problem is, by the time normal diplomacy is finished, the battle may have already been lost.
  • Unrelatedly, here I was thinking Paul Murray’s column on Thursday was bad. Today he highlights that newspaper’s endemic lack of clue towards the Internet: whilst pretending he knows what he’s on about, he waffles about “credibility” before selectively quoting The Assault on Reason (taking an entire sentence to dismiss why Al Gore thinks the Web is good for democracy), and froths at the mouth about celebrity gossip without noticing that the Internet is a wee bit bigger than the home pages of Australia’s commercial news services.
  • Murray’s page was taken up yesterday by an infinitely more sensible article from former MP Phillip Pendal (who’s no saint, having once been anti-railway). He points out that the State Government ought to stop sitting on its hands with the Old Treasury Buildings and restore them to government offices, their original use. This really does make a lot of sense, particularly given how much office space the State rents and how horribly expensive that is in the current market. But its sensibility is exactly why I fear his proposal will be ignored.
  • From today’s report about the not-yet-released masterplan for the Amarillo site, I observe that there’s basically nothing new. It’s a huge area of sprawled housing in a region with more new housing estates than you can poke a stick at, there’s suggestion of a dense centre that might be kinda cool (maybe), and there’s the mention of “possible light rail” that has accompanied every development south of Fremantle for as long as I can remember.
    Update 14/6: I’d not noticed that the master plan has been buried on the DHW site for some days now.